Into the Cold Water
Jonas and Jonny have some things in common: they are both staff members at First Reading, neither is a political scientist, and one is an intern in Brussels, the other was. What is everyday life like in political consulting if you don’t come from a political science background, if you have read Kant and Machiavelli instead of Hayek and Kahneman or Freud and Skinner? Both give us a little insight below.
On building bridges – Jonny Fischer
There I was, at the beginning of September 2019 – my first time in Brussels, my first time seeing the Commission and Parliament up close. I had decided to do an internship in political consulting. Amongst all the political scientists, I stood there as a business student, pardon me, as a student of “International Management” and was allowed to gain my first real international experience.
Admittedly, management consulting should be the core discipline of a business economist. Nevertheless, before starting the new job I had the uneasy feeling that I didn’t know enough. But every day I find out in an impressive way that the fields of politics and management actually have a lot in common. Striving for good solutions, not always in the most direct way, with a lot of creativity, not always doing everything the same way. Or to put it in the words of someone who has shaped politics and economics in equal measure: All life is problem solving.
For me, there is a fascination in the possibility of not only understanding current political events, but also building bridges to our clients’ business models. As political consultants, it is of course part of our job never to consider the political merely in isolation. It is precisely the transfer between the two worlds that is at the core of our work. And then I’m lucky enough to work at First Reading in a company that recognized the value of this transfer and, incidentally, was brave enough to create a new position for it after my internship.
But just as regulation is never merely an end in itself, a business model is never merely a means of creating value isolated from the environment. There is a tension in watching business models transform as the environment changes. At this point, it is also necessary to break with a classic cliché of “lobbying.” It is not only companies that influence politics, but of course it also goes the other way around. Regulation always offers an opportunity for creativity, for the possibility to adapt to dynamics or – in the optimal case – to shape something new out of such an event.
For me, one of the greatest attractions is to observe this transformation process anew every day on both sides and to be able to help shape it myself. Perhaps business administration sometimes suffers from seeing itself only as an accompanying entity, as a financial conscience or even as one of many means to an end. However, the connection with politics has definitely allowed me to leave this perspective and look at “my discipline” in a new light.
Out of the comfort zone and into a change of perspective – Jonas Figge
Hi, I’m Jonas, 23 years old and an intern at FIRST READING in Brussels. So here I am. In front of the office at Square de Meeus with the most beautiful sunshine and I can hardly wait to start. Next to the most important embassies, not far from the European Parliament. And what am I doing here now? I wanted to meet her. The seemingly tough consultant scene as well as the politicians and doers of tomorrow. Out of the comfort zone of studies!
As a business psychologist, I now find myself in the day-to-day work of a political consultant. For me, this is a time for learning and discovery. A time in which I have the opportunity to get to know the person behind the facade. In other words, the personality. Seems like you have to have one these days, doesn’t it? The modern business psychologist puts people at the center of his or her work and is thus able – together with the team – to analyze, understand and correctly classify relationships and behaviors between stakeholders. To describe people’s personalities, psychology is guided by the Big Five personality model. According to this model, each person can be classified into the dimensions of agreeableness, extraversion, neuroticism, conscientiousness and openness to experience. And I can tell you about that: you meet fascinating personalities in political consulting work.
So the internship is a good time for me to be able to bring in my perspective, to let space and ideas for new things emerge. In this way, the perspective can help to identify the aforementioned personality typologies, to recognize causes for that behavior and to break down communicative barriers. In my daily work I am inspired by the view for the big picture within the interactions and analyses of the FIRST READING. In the fast-paced and responsible world of consulting, it’s important to keep an eye on political events without forgetting the people involved. A difficult undertaking? Not at FIRST READING. This balancing act is what distinguishes the company and is an integral part of the way we work together.
I am very grateful for the many great experiences and the trust placed in me, as well as the openness of the entire team. Leaving my comfort zone once again has shown me what can arise when you do. From fear and shame, to anticipation and nervousness, to enthusiasm and life. In this way, a foreign perspective can open new doors and contribute a part to the further development of the company.